Double Proficiency

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At least for a historian. Seriously, those guys will raid your garbage bin and steal your receipts. And the humanity will be grateful. After a while. I’ve just put my hands on the last (well, fourth out of five, they weren’t delivered in the right order) volume of History of Private Life. It’s probably one of the best series about history ever written, especially if you’re interested in social changes, not the fates of battles and wars. And if there’s some study area I’d love more than social and cultural history, I haven’t found it yet.

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If you love the Victorian era and feel disappointed you haven’t lived a century ago, don’t despair – many things did not change anyway. Might be useful for your steampunk and Victorian-era RPG worldbuilding!

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Yesterday the RPG world has been stunned into silence (for like a second, before the cheering started) by the announcement that on 26/06 20:00GMT launches the Kickstarter for Critical Role Miniatures. And so it did.

There was a fair amount of speculation whether this will happen ever since in January 2018 Russ Charles, an incredibly talented miniatures sculptor (well know known for his previous work for Privateer Press, Warlord Games and other wargaming companies) started posting on Twitter 3D renders of his renditions of the Mighty Nine, player characters from the Critical Role’s second campaign. As everybody might have guessed, that was met with applause and ‘Shut up and take my money’ gifs.

So, when yesterday folks at Critical Role have announced that they will launch a Kickstarter with the minis (produced by UK-based Steamforged Games), I wasn’t particularly surprised but ecstatic nonetheless.

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Tired of feeding your party the same staple food everytime they go out to eat in a civilized place? We’ve got your back: follow us for some tasty medieval recipes, and historically accurate food lore.

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In my usual RPG group sometimes we can’t all make it to the game, as I’m sure it happens to each party. Normally we play Earthdawn (3E), and due to the storyline it’s rather hard to come up with reasons why one character or other disappeared. So, instead of making us all stop when we can’t have a full party, we’ve come up with Wraith Recon.

Well, obviously, we didn’t come up with Wraith Recon itself. It’s moderately known setting for Mongoose’s RuneQuest II – or rather, for D&D 4E, which was reworked for MRQII, and which we’re currently playing on house-ruled D&D 5E. Why the roundabout way? Because RuneQuest edition is what I have on a shelf, that’s why.

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Mordekainen’s back! Everybody’s favourite wizard brings us world lore, racial lore, and a nice selection of monsters to charm and slaughter (or die of, to be honest).

The book looks pretty much standard for the fifth edition: hardcover, gloss varnish, pretty artwork. I actually like the cover art of the standard edition (by Jason Rainville) more than the special edition by Vance Kelly.

So, what’s inside the book that promises that we’ll discover the truth about the great conflicts of the universe?

There are six chapters full of goodies, and the review will discuss them all, because that’s more fun:

  1. The Blood War: description of the eternal war between devils and demons;
  2. Elves: sub-races, gods, day-to-day living;
  3. Dwarves and Duergar: the war, dwarven and duergar ways of living, duergar characters;
  4. Gith and Their Endless War: long-awaited lore and rules for Githyanki and Githzerai;
  5. Halflings and Gnomes: lots of lore about the small races;
  6. Bestiary: 140 monster stat blocks, with the emphasis on demonic and devilish creatures.

TL;DR: A quality supplement. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the racial lore, as I’m a bit sentimental about the amount of write-up that used to accompany bestiary entries in AD&D. I like the new monsters, especially those above CR10 – it’s always nice to have something that will challenge players who got too cocky.

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So, I haven’t really posted anything in a while. A long while, if you don’t count an odd Instagram pic of the minis I’m painting, or an occasional tweet a out random rpg-related stuff.

However, there have been things happening. My collection of RPG book grew considerably in size, my collection of minis even more so (I got into Age of Sigmar, and it’s fun!). I’m playing Earthawn (3E), DMing D&D (5E) as a kind of fantasy spec ops (Wraith Recon, anyone?), reading through incredible 800-pages Glorantha setting for Runequest, making sample characters (D&D 5E, 3rd level, complete with backstories), painting terrain pieces, writing adventures, working full-time (plus some more) on cool stuff for Warlord Games, and finishing off my home office/paint station.

So, I’ve been busy. Add to that the impostor syndrome and you get a clear answer why I haven’t been posting much. I’m trying to do better though, and hopefully stuff will actually appear here soon. For the time being, please accept this random shot of the minis I’ve finally got to base properly this week – made by Midlam Miniatures, Reaper and a whomever made a game called Drakerys and put the elves in there.

We all know that roleplaying games are a theatre of the mind, but there’s nothing as fun as actually seeing your PC. It helps you to get in character, it helps your party members with visualisation, it makes it easier for your fans/friends to do fanart.

However, for those of us who aren’t artist, it’s either to commission some proper character portraits, do a lousy sketch ourself, or delve into the wide and deep ocean of internet resources. A side note: if you’re going to use somebody else’s art because it fits, be prepared to tell people who the artist is. You’re using their work, so let’s have the basic honesty to credit them when possible (e.g. when someone asks).

If you’re not willing to dig deep for appropriate artwork, or just want something that fits perfectly (more or less), there’s a massive amount of portrait generators out there that can help you in your RPG needs. Almost every RPG/MMO computer game (and Sims series, of course) also has a built-in generator which you use for this purpose (just take a screencap!), but I’m going to show you the free-to-use that you can use without installing anything on your computer.

To make it easier to show differences in the generators, I’m going to create portraits of two characters from a D&D 5E campaign played not so long ago: Enid, half-elven bard/warlock (think trickery with a bit of fae vibe thrown into the mix), and Kronis, human paladin of Kord (straight outta Skyrim).

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I’m a bit behind on the reviews but… Oh my, this comic book is everything I’ve ever wanted (until the animated series comes out, and then the 10-season live action TV series).

Ending the last issue on a high note, with “roll initiative” in the air, Matt Colville decided to throw the characters under the bus. The villain is deadly, intelligent, and doesn’t care at all that the protagonists would very much like to loot her afterwards, thank you very much. I cannot wait to read more about her, and her compatriots.

The story progresses just like it should, seeing as we’re 66% into the story arc – there’s a party to be assembled, and the main characters must go through the hardships and tribulations to achieve their final goals in issue six. And yet, even though it’s classic story composition, it still feels natural and fresh. Vex is incredible and believable (she made such progress during the campaign!), Keyleth has the best facial expressions, and Scanlan is the most genre-savvy character I’ve seen in a long time.

But the story needs more Percy.

I’m going to leave you with my favourite snippet of this issue: Tiberius being awesome.Opera Zdjęcie_2018-02-06_202254_digital.darkhorse.com.png

I got my latest Kickstarter package delivered – a pack of Common (or Garden) Gnomes from Midlam Miniatures. Why did I need them? No reason whatsoever. But I am a big fan of this tiny UK-based company and their metal minis, and I make it a point to support all their Kickstarter campaigns. They keep creating original, less “popular” designs, filling several niches: beastfolk, halflings, civilians, Lovecraftian cultists, female characters in sensible clothing.

The minis are standard 28mm scale, but being gnomes they’re only 28mm when you measure them up to the top of the pointy hat. Here’s the size comparison of the male and female gnomes with a human woman (from Midlam’s Winter Adventurers set):

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I got absolutely zero need for those gnomes. Even if I get to play a gnome one day, they won’t be wearing pointy hats (unless they’re a wizard, I guess). But the minis are so sweet, well cast (little to no lines, no flashes, no rips, no miscasts) and detailed that they’re already on my painting short list.

As for gnomes they’re quite diverse – just another nice thing about Midlam’s minis. Out of 14 models in a set, there are four women (a mage, shown above, a flower girl, an unarmoured woman with an axe, and a leather-clad one with a sword), all of them in practical dresses (as far as practical dresses go). The other ten are male – or at least bearded, part of them armoured, part of them unarmoured, some with swords, some with axes, and some with wheelbarrows or angry gestures. The wizard has an owl familiar, so everything is good in the universe.

Anyway, guys from Midlam have just put a new Kickstarter campaign out there, with the Ghosts of Midlam Manor. If you ever need a dwarven or a halfling ghost, check them out.

There’s a lot of plot threads sort of converging in this scene. Usually when that happens not everyone survives.

Why write reviews when you can just quote Scanlan?

So, the third volume came out today, and though I have next to no time whatsoever for writing a blog lately (toy business is kind of hectic before Christmas), I couldn’t skip this one. Writen, as before, by the illustrious Matt Colville, the third issue takes on the incredibly heavy duty of bringing all of the characters together. As might have been expected – with paranoid twins, prone to anger Grog and generally detached Scanlan – this does not go smoothly.

Ab ovo, though. Drawn by Olivia Samson and coloured by Chris Northrop, this is still one of the prettiest things I’m reading these days. But what stood out even more this time for me is the amazing work of Chris Kawagiwa, who was expertly handling the layouts. I do not know who decided to use the grid to show the placement of the character (especially those behind the secret doors), but it’s genius.

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The beginning of the story covers the poisoned swamp plot from the third side, as Keyleth and Tiberius (plus their party) are working for the Clasp to uncover the reasons why the mob is losing their profits. Which doesn’t actually go exactly as one might anticipated. Anyway, the Clasp is evil (in case somebody thinks that thieves’ guilds are full of bleeding-heart Robin Hoods), shaking down your employer may not be the best idea, and the race goes to the most motivated. I can’t wait to see how it goes in the next issue.

To not spoil to much, we cut to bickering twins in the sewers, amazing idea of disguising ourselves as ourselves, but poorer, Kiki rolling well on Perception (Keen Senses), Tiberius having the most amazing conversation with a dog, and Scanlan being an incredible bard.

The amount of puns, jokes, and splendid interpretations of usefulness of a bard in a fight (oh, boy. I need more of this), make this comic book worth every minute spent on reading and re-reading. The plot brings together all of the characters (minus Pike and Percy, which is a still a disappointment), playing off various strengths and weaknesses, and finally introducing the villain to the PCs.

In short, I’m seriously impressed. Third issue is great, even if slightly darker than the previous ones (although the series started with an infant sacrifice…). I thought it might be just sentiment for the Critical Role, but then it became apparent it’s just a quality piece of entertainment.

Let me just finish off with this golden piece of Scanlan:

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Character options! Improved backgrounds! Magic item creation rules! New spells! Myriad of traps!

If 5E D&D was lacking something, it was definitely more options. Devised as a system with a new player-friendly learning curve, it didn’t overwhelm with choices. For someone like me, who spent their games mostly in Pathfinder or Shadowrun, it was rather underwhelming in this regards. The current edition’s publishing strategy, focusing on campaigns and adventures, has made life of many (mostly first-time) GMs easier, and this is definitely a good thing.

However, not being a first-time GM and loving making choices, I was struggling for a long time with fifth edition. I felt it’s too constricting and too vague at the same time.

And then cue Xanathar.

The greedy, conceited, rich, and powerful beholder (and his goldfish) has collected some of the best lore and items and for whatever reason is happy to share it.

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